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Respecting the Gesture: An Investigation of Objects (Raissa Bump + Jonathan Anzalone)

Artist Profile, PressApril HigashiComment
Strandline: grouping

Strandline: grouping

On any given beach, it’s easy to find the strandline: just look for the length of driftwood, detritus, and scrap that create an undulating path upon the sand, directly above the water line. 

Jonathan Anzalone + Raïssa Bump

Jonathan Anzalone + Raïssa Bump

For jeweler Raïssa Bump and painter/woodworker Jonathan Anzalone, this debris field provides a wealth of material and insight for their show “Strand Line.” From such disparate inspirations as bottle caps, paper clips, and driftwood, Raïssa and Jonathan, who outside of this collaboration are also studio and life partners, have created a show that speaks to commodification and its inherent presence in even the wildest pockets of nature. However, instead of passing judgment on a culture of excess, “Strand Line” chooses to amplify moments of subtle beauty from these collected materials, displaying them in new ways through mobiles, kinetic and fixed sculpture, and jewelry.

“We did walk a lot on the beach, literally on the strandline collecting these things. It’s fun for us to go out and draw inspiration from it and to make things from these parts and pieces,” explained Raïssa. “This show is a culmination of years of collecting, and looking for colors, little bits of shape, and composition.” 

When asked about what they look for when walking the strandline, Jonathan explained, “You see those compositions and bits of color that are exciting and you bend down to pick them up it has a little story: there’s the beginning of what it was, it’s been worn down and weathered and became another shape, but still references something we often know. I like the idea of taking these pieces and arranging them and enabling one to see it from a different perspective, and quite beautiful when you put it in a different context and arrange it.”  

Indeed, Strand Line is a beautifully arranged exhibition. Raïssa and Jonathan went so far as to ask Shibumi Gallery owner April Higashi to hide the numbers identifying each piece for the sale directory during the opening. This way, the colors and shapes of all of the pieces weren’t marred by tiny round stickers. The resulting flow of the show, its interconnectedness of material and composition, is undeniable. 

Miscellaneous earrings; photo by tiny jeweler photography  

Miscellaneous earrings; photo by tiny jeweler photography
 

   Mesh Isosoles Triangle Earrings; mesh and sterling silver, copper. photo by tiny jeweler photography  

 

Mesh Isosoles Triangle Earrings; mesh and sterling silver, copper.
photo by tiny jeweler photography
 

A sense of interconnection, balance, and proportion all played large roles in the show. “Balance and proportion—or lack of—is a big part of both of our work,” explained Jonathan. “Balance is a recurring theme. We’re both formalists, colorists, minimalists, We both share that delicate balance and how sensitive some of these compositions are. They look very simple, but they’re highly considered.”

Mobile Detail photo by April Higashi

Mobile Detail
photo by April Higashi

Perhaps the most evident examples of this delicate balance are the mobiles that Jonathan and Raïssa created. The mobiles, including “Mobile Footprint,” “Confluent,” “Catenary,” and “Bow,” are a natural extension of both artists’ emphasis on balance, of creating harmony between all of the objects, whether they were found or made. “That’s where the idea of the mobile came from,” noted Jonathan. “It was a perfect way to have these objects exist together without a hierarchy. No one object was more important than the other, it’s just a balancing act and a collaboration between all of these materials.”

Bow; sterling silver, copper, found object, wood, 22k gold leaf, nylon. photo by tiny jeweler photography

Bow; sterling silver, copper, found object, wood, 22k gold leaf, nylon.
photo by tiny jeweler photography

A meditation on shape—particularly on grids, hexagons, and puzzles—also guides Strand Line, as does use of color. Raïssa’s background in textile design and techniques serves as a guide for many of the pieces in Strand Line in terms of both construction and color“I knew that for this show I wanted to bring back more color,” she explains. “Jonathan and I share a love for color, and it was great to bring color back for this exposition.” One of the most vibrant examples of color use is the sterling and fine silver, copper, and glass bead “Colorful Equilateral Triangle Brooch,” which consists of five separate shapes, including triangles, a square, and a rhombus, all of which can be rearranged, grouped, and worn however one desires.

As for the emphasis on shape, Raïssa explains that it was a helpful tool for focusing and creating boundaries. “We noticed in our studios separately that the hexagon was coming up at different moments. We also were interested in the tangram puzzle, puzzles in general, and how you can put things together in different ways. It was fun to see what can happen within the boundary of a shape, such as breaking a hexagon up into different shapes and putting it back together—the interknit possibilities of what can happen within a very structured pattern.”

In the end though, this show is primarily about respecting the gesture of each original material or object. For instance,Untitled, a mounted wall sculpture, is made from kelp, paint, and sterling silver. The kelp that Jonathan found on the strandline of the same beach was twisted in two arresting spirals. Jonathan cut a clean line on each end of the two spirals, bound them together, and painted one side black and one white. The resulting piece is a mesmerizing study in captured motion.

 “For me a lot of my studio practice is collecting these objects, having them around me, and sometimes using them,” explained Raïssa. “The ideas come to me through the making process. I save a lot of pieces throughout the years as explorations that don’t become finished objects the moment they’re made, but maybe years later. This show was an exciting way for me to level the playing field between high and low, between precious and not precious, between manmade and natural.”

Strand Line: Raïssa Bump and Jonathan Anzalone can be seen at Shibumi Gallery through October 5th. 

Written by Elka Karl

Raissa Bump: "Circulation"

Artist ProfileApril HigashiComment

The artist's musings on her current body of work followed by a conversation with the artist.

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There is something so irresistible in the prospect of tying up loose ends and making honest work out of our starts and stutters. It’s an urge that permeates across disciplines and vocations. At some point we’ve all yearned to find a home for our unfinished things, a place where they can rest and in turn put our mind at rest. Raïssa Bump has taken this simple urge and expanded on it, creating a complex body of work that utilizes her unfinished bits and pieces, collected over a 20-year period, in combinations to make brooches, earrings, and necklaces.

But this work is more than just sorting out old projects and sifting through unfinished endeavors. In an intricate collaboration with herself, this body of jewelry collages together pieces made by the artist at varying stages along her journey as a maker. Pieces from the 7-year old Raïssa combine with those from the 27-year old Raïssa and as if before your eyes, they become new again. She has thoughtfully folded in each part with skill and sophistication, allowing each new piece to stand on it’s own. The end result is a body of jewelry, both edgy and elegant.

In complement to this current project, the show includes a selection of Bumps knitwear. Working back and forth within jewelry and knitwear, Bump engages in a constant conversation between these two dynamic segments of her studio practice. Her humble yet sexy garments hang in the gallery as a backdrop, illustrating her complete vision of adornment as a vehicle for non-verbal communication and self-expression.

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Raïssa Bump received her B.F.A. in Jewelry and Metals at Rhode Island School of Design and studied at Alchimia School of Contemporary Jewelry in Florence Italy. She has taught at various colleges including the revered Penland School of Crafts and locally at Diablo Valley College. I had the opportunity to talk with her about her practice and her current body of work being shown at Shibumi Gallery in Berkeley. Read what Raïssa has to say about her current show, “Circulation” and then go see the work.

One of the last things that we were talking about at your opening was sketching in 3-dimensions with tangible objects vs. making an actual drawing and you said that it was difficult for you to get ideas out by planning on paper. On the other hand there are artists who need that plan or blueprint before they can begin to make a piece. So, what is it about that type of artist production that is more fruitful for you?

Probably because, in one way, my skills with drawing are not as developed but that’s besides the point because I think if drawing felt right to me I would find ways to make it more of an outlet. I certainly don’t feel like I need a blueprint before I start. Regardless of where the idea is, I like to have a tangible beginning point and then just work from there and evaluate as I go along.

I work through my hands. That’s where my spirit connects. I think it’s how I experience life too. It’s more about the experience and being able to see it instead of just imagine it. I can respond a lot more to that. And for me it’s harder to make decisions if something doesn’t already exist. I find that I can be more responsive and have a clearer idea about a piece when I’m brainstorming in 3-dimensions. And after all, the end result is a 3-dimensional thing. That’s probably why I have so many leftovers.

Right, instead of a sketchbook you probably have boxes and piles and things like that.

Yeah, its gives me more information. For the most part, I sketch after I already have an idea I’m working out in 3-dimensions and I say to myself, “before I go to the next stage I’m going to draw this out in different sizes so I can get a visual. Or I cut it out in paper. Paper is more tactile.

So then, along those lines how do you know when you’re finished? How do you know when you have reached the end product so to speak?

That’s not always so direct and so easy. I have a table where I have bits and pieces that I’ll arrange in a composition. I’ll leave it like that for a day or maybe I’ll move it around or add something else and feel it out. It’s a lot of intuition, of allowing time. It doesn’t always happen fast. I look at a composition for a while and then I start putting it together, actually constructing it. Eventually I wear it around my studio and sometimes out on the streets. I have to put it on the body and see how it wears, see how I feel in it, see how it looks when I walk in front of a mirror or if it hangs strange. I actually, especially with this body of work, make a lot of little changes at this stage. So, it’s a process of allowing enough time for each piece.

So, then are you kind of working in between pieces, going back and forth or do you tend to focus on one piece until you get it right and then move on to the next?

Rarely do I work on one piece and then go to the next and then the next. In my general process I have many pieces going on at once and it allows me to not get stressed out. Some pieces end up being something and some ideas don’t for the moment. It makes more sense to allow that time that I was talking about in order to feel the work intuitively and to keep looking at it at different moments, different moods, different times of day, different light…

The title of this show is “Circulation”. Would you in general talk a little bit about Circulation and what that means to your work?

I like the idea of this continuous motion. That was one of the things I responded to when choosing the title, this cycle and idea that one thing leads to the next in an ongoing, continuous flow. So that’s how I viewed it as I was working. It was this process of looking at myself throughout different time periods of my life and addressing that. As people, we interact with the world and we can’t avoid flow. One thing leads to the next, leads to the next and our experiences lead us to where we are today. So circulation is a reference to the years, the story, the information, the knowledge and interests that went into the work. Also, I like the idea of thinking of circulation in another context, as how things get spread. Like newspaper circulation, how something moves out and about in the world, how it circulates. It feels like that’s where I’m at in my life. I’m putting myself out there in the public and getting the work out there. I really do feel like these necklaces, earrings and brooches are lyrical collages that speak to all the different fragments of me, but at the same time can move away from me and mean something to someone else.

Right. I like that double meaning. The circulation that deals with the making of the work as well as the physical circulation of the work itself once out in the world. Especially because it is unique to a discipline like jewelry. You could make a 2-d work or a sculpture for that matter but it would be on the wall or somewhere more permanent. But jewelry is so interesting in that it’s constantly moving through the day to day.

Yeah, which is lovely. It moves from mood to mood, space to space and person to person. Jewelry does go to museums or certain places and just stay put but not in general.

As artists we tend to scrutinize what we make all the time. If I were to look back at something that I didn’t consider part of my artwork I might not care so much but when I put things in this category of, “This is my art,” then it becomes so much more magnified. I was thinking of myself going through your process and I wondered, would I want to look at pieces or parts or things that I made 15 or 20 years ago?

It’s interesting too, because some of it dates back to when I was young or even through high school when I wasn’t thinking of it in the context of, “I’m making art.” It was just that pure love of using my hands, getting time to myself and quietly doing all these intricate and repetitive things. Then on top of that, having something as a result of that time spent. I love that. I always like having nothing in my hands and then creating something, and realizing, “Wow, now I have a necklace to wear out tonight or a hat because its cold,” and having that skill is something I really am thankful for.

However, there is a time when it did start to become a harder process. For me the critical moment when it shifted was after college, when I was trying to make money and make this my thing. As far as the pieces I made during this time period, I probably took them apart so much that they are in disguise from what they originally were. They weren’t so interesting to me the way they were.

You said at the gallery talk that your household was a little chaotic and you looked forward to these times when you could steal away by yourself. In terms of this group of work I like picturing what your household was like and I was wondering if you could just give me a little bit of a background on your upbringing?

Sure. I certainly got along with my family. It’s just that I had 3 older brothers and a younger sister. We didn’t have a set routine every single day. It was just sort of, whatever needed to happen, happened. So there was a lot of flexibility in some ways and a lot of unknowns. I found myself wanting quiet time. So I would get away and do my own thing for a while. And that’s what it felt like—getting away from a constant motion.

Was that part of your parents philosophy, that flexibility?

I think that my family was willing to avoid making things super static, which I really appreciate. There were certainly rules and some formality about things. But there was rarely a time where it was just, “This is what it is and no matter what the scenario comes up, I’m not going to consider anything else.” That allowed for a lot to happen. It’s interesting because the house was always changing. We were fixing the house, furniture would move around and in a sense there was a lot of creation.

I was wondering if you had one piece out of the group that especially spoke to you and if you could elaborate.

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It’s not so easy to just pick one but I really like the way this piece came out. I feel like it can be worn in different ways. I wore it with a t-shirt and thought it looked great and it felt really good. It also can be dressy and formal. A lot of this exhibition is versatile like that. In this necklace, there is a beautiful interaction between the old and the new. From afar you see it’s line quality and then up-close you see these different elements of texture and color. I like the color interaction in the piece. It’s subdued but still feels very expressive yet very simple.

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